CAPS LOCK: How capitalism took hold of graphic design, and how to escape from itText and design by Ruben Pater, Valiz, £22.50 (paperback)
There is an elephant in the room, but there are some signs that we are beginning to notice its footprints on the rug. Finally, after 56 years of dancing around the subject, in the 2020 revision of the First Things First manifesto, members of the graphic design community plucked up the courage to use the word ‘capitalism’ in connection with the suggestion that everything might not be quite right in the industry. In CAPS LOCK: How capitalism took hold of graphic design, and how to escape from it, Ruben Pater pulls no punches, presenting a brutally honest examination of graphic design’s systemic and deep-rooted historical and present-day complicity in the unjust, exploitative and oppressive political, economic and social systems of local and global capitalism.
The foundational narrative of CAPS LOCK is that graphic design is not an originally innocent pure spirit later corrupted and coerced into the service of capitalism. Rather, graphic design emerged and developed symbiotically with capitalist economic systems, and is therefore not just a bystander, but an active accomplice implicated in all of the problematic complexity of capitalism’s effects in our lives. In presenting this case and its implications the book is certainly ambitious in its scope. Running to over 500 pages the reader is taken on a whirlwind tour of how graphic design came to be so deeply and inextricably embedded within capitalist systems …
Cover of CAPS LOCK: How capitalism took hold of graphic design, and how to escape from it designed by Ruben Pater. Top. Spread from CAPS LOCK juxtaposing Tesla’s Elon Musk with a Bolivian miner.
Peter Buwert design ethics researcher, educator, Edinburgh
Read the full article in Eye no. 103 vol. 26, 2022
Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.